This past two weeks I have spent most of my time sitting in front of this computer. I have working on submitting manuscripts for publication. At the top of my agenda are three books I’d love to see published. Books that have been in the writing in various forms for many years—one is a biography of architect Mary Colter for middle school children, a picture book of Mary Colter for lower grades, and a chapter book telling the story of a young girl living on a farm during World War II.

All three of these books have been through several revisions and critiqued by my writing group and edited again. But I have let them sit quietly in my computer. Yes, I did send them out once or twice and received a rejection. No, I don’t like to receive rejections, but they don’t discourage me from writing. I’ve even received encouraging rejections, such as: “I love the story, but it is not right for us.”

How to find that one agent or editor who says, “I love the story, here’s a contract?”

Nothing submitted. Nothing published. I know this.
So this is my New Year’s resolution:
I will submit at least one story to an agent or editor every week.

Perhaps having written this for all to see, I will work to keep my resolution.


As a ten-year-old, a “Back to School Sale” excited me. It meant that school would soon be starting. I loved school. The first day of school meant a new dress, a pencil box with unsharpened pencils, a red square eraser, a six-inch ruler, possibly a image0compass for drawing circles, and a protractor for which I had no use, A new shiny lunch box, complete with thermos, was also a necessity in my view.  I looked forward to Labor Day and the beginning of a new school year.

All these necessities would often be purchased at a store in the nearby small village in upstate New York, or if Mom thought it necessary, Dad took us to Binghamton with its Montgomery Ward, Sears Roebuck, and big department stores. For me shopping in the city was  exciting. We would have lunch at Woolworth’s counter where the menu was displayed in bright pictures over the mirror facing the counter. This was a big deal.  My dad was a very patient man. He had little to do with our shopping. Instead, he leaned against the outside of the building and waited for the packages that he would trundle back to the truck while Mom and I continued shopping.

Now with the big box stores, and huge shopping centers that begin advertising “Back to School” sales the week school closes for the summer, I doubt that the signs have the same effect. Although my five-year-old grandson asked his mother when they going to buy the list of supplies that he brought home on the last day of school in June, my older grandson groaned at the thought of returning to school the first week of summer vacation.

Now sales signs and Labor Day seem to harbor the coming winter. I don’t find either exciting.


I’m more than willing to revise my picture book. However…

I’ve now written a half dozen revisions. Some bits of each of them are pretty good, some are not so good, some may be awful, some may be just right. Figuring out how to choose those bits and eliminate the rest has become my dilemma.

This is what I’m going to try. I will put each revision in the same document, but each will have its own color. Then I will cut and paste bits of the different colored versions that are related to one another.

My hope is that when I see the opening page in all the different colors, I can meld the best words and phrases together.

Maybe it will work. May not. If not? Try again!



This morning a note from an editor gave me the news that she can’t accept my picture book of Mary Colter as it is. She recognized that I have done extensive research and closed with the hope that I will consider revising it.

I will definitely consider revision. Now comes the hard part. How to put another person’s life in a form that is interesting and helps you know that person. Colter wrote almost nothing about herself. Her correspondence dealt with her work as an architect. Some quotes about her from other people give us an insight into her personality. Her interests and personality also come through in her buildings. OK. Now I have those insights and personality traits into words –words that children will understand.

I’m thinking along the lines of buildings that tell stories. It will be a while before I try to commit this idea to paper, but I am making notes as I think of them.

When I am in a project , writing is an all-consuming task whether or not anything is put on paper.


This morning I asked my daughter, “What if I hadn’t said you couldn’t be a nurse when you were ten, because you fainted when having your finger pricked? Would you have become a nurse sooner?”

Her answer, “I don’t know.”

Her question, “What if you hadn’t told me I was adopted all my life, how would I have reacted when I was older and you told me? I might have been angry, but knowing, it was just part of life, I didn’t think about it.”

There have been so many times I could ask myself, “What if…?”

No one can answer the question. To spend time lamenting my choice is to deny my life as it is. My choices have given me life now. The question I need to answer is not what if, but what am I going to do with my life now?

I could mourn all the choices I didn’t make. What would that get me? A sad life.

I can look for opportunities to help someone have a better life, to learn something new, to understand another part of the world I live in, to write stories to share with children and adults.

The world is full of possibilities. I have no time for “what if.” I’m busy with “now.”



A Long, Long Summer is set in 1943. Jeanne is sent against her will to her uncle’s farm for the summer because her dad is a Navy doctor and her mother is working the swing shift. Jeanne worries about her father overseas. She struggles with her fears of animals and trying new things as she knows her father wants her to do. It is her father’s words from before joining the Navy that return to help her gain confidence in herself. It is Dad and Daughter bond.

The first week our adopted daughter (22 months) was part of our family, all was well. Her father, a pastor, was in and out of the house often during the day. Then came the day he had a day-long meeting an hour or more away. He had been gone for an hour or two, when our daughter said, “I go home now.” She’d decided her visit was over. For the next eight or nine hours she insisted, “I go home now,” pleading and crying. I, too, wanted to cry. Just before dinner, her daddy walked in the front door. All was well!

One night around the campfire he held her. When it was time for bed, she appeared to be sound to sleep, but as he stood to carry her to bed, she opened her eyes. “Fooled you, didn’t I?”

This special bond stayed intact the rest of her father’s life. They shared the same sense of humor and bad jokes, the joy of the preposterous, and understanding of one another.

This dad and daughter bond is one I experienced as a child, too. Where Dad went, I went. He never told me I couldn’t do something. Instead, he said, “I don’t think you can, but you can try.” He was usually right that I was not big or strong enough. One day I asked to back the tractor from the barn and nearly went over a high stone ramp. The first thing he said was, “Don’t tell your mother.” The second thing was, “Keep your foot off the clutch.” Third, “Get on the tractor.” Dad got on with me. I have never left my foot on the clutch again.

In my writing I want children to feel that bond between Jeanne and her father, even when they are separated by time and distance.



In my nearly finished novel, A Long, Long Summer, the children are surprised when a pony arrives on the farm. The novel is fiction but the setting and the pony were real in the Summer of 1943.

An excerpt:

Everyone watched Uncle John and the driver disappear into the dark truck. It seemed like a long time before they tugged and pulled the new cow down the ramp. Once she was off the truck, Uncle John led her into the barnyard where he untied the rope to let her go, and refastened the gate. Chum, now at Uncle John’s side, studied his new charge.
On the porch the children turned away when the driver said, “Where’s the other one go?”
What other one? Instantly, all eyes went back to the truck, but they couldn’t see inside it.
“We’ll put her in the barn,” Uncle John said.
The driver went into the truck and came out leading a black pony.
Sally stood unbelieving. “It’s a pony!”
“For us?” Johnny looked at his mother.
She nodded.
The pony was also reluctant to walk down the ramp, but Uncle John patted her head, took hold of the pony’s halter and led her slowly off the truck to the front of the barn.
The driver disappeared into the truck again. He came out and tossed a saddle and bridle onto the grass. He lifted the tailgate, slammed it closed, and locked it in place. He hopped into the driver’s seat and waved as he drove off.
The three children and Aunt Belle hurried down the bank. Uncle John led the pony back to the grass where she dropped her head a grab a mouthful of it.
Jeanne, fearing to get close, stayed back of everyone else.
Sally reached out to rub the pony’s forehead. Johnny patted its shoulder. Aunt Belle took a carrot from her pocket and offered it to her in the palm of her hand. Jeanne held her breath, sure the pony would bite Aunt Belle. Instead the pony took the carrot between her soft gray lips. She nodded her head as she chewed it up.

The picture is of my pony, Patty.
Many kids grow up wishing for a horse. Why? As I remember Patty, it was a bit of freedom to get on her back and have her respond to my commands–fun to trot or gallop across a field. Perhaps, it’s like the first time one gets to drive a car or any vehicle–a sense of being in charge.
As an adult, I had little chance to ride for many years. Then for a few years a close neighbor had Brownie. He was a stubborn animal and often had his own idea where he wanted to go. It took the same stubbornness to persuade him that in the saddle I was boss, and he was the horse.
I’d been well prepared. Patty had also been stubborn. She and I had that same conversation more than once. She would not go on the road.
My father hated to shoe her because as soon as he picked up one of her hind feet, she rested her body on his back. It wasn’t easy to hold her weight.
She would do anything for my mother, especially if rewarded with a licorice gumdrop, probably because my mother gave her daily attention. She grew to be an old lady on the farm.


IN my children’s novel, A Long, Long Summer, Jeanne is surprised to discover that her aunt and uncle grow the vegetables which they eat all summer and prepare for the winter.

An excerpt:
One mid-July morning, Aunt Belle said, “There are enough peas ready for canning. I’d like you kids to help me.”
“What do we do?” Jeanne asked following Sally out to the woodshed.
“First, we take these buckets and pick peas, and then we shell them.” Sally picked up two clean gray metal pails from a pile on the corner of the woodshed porch, and handed one to Jeanne.
“I’ll be down after I change,” Aunt Belle called as they went out to the back porch and down the knoll behind the house.
The large garden went from the edge of the dirt driveway to the raspberry bushes and the red hen house. Jeanne hoped she wouldn’t have to go in there again.
They passed the green spires of the sweet corn, now grown taller than the day they’d been in the hen house to gather eggs.
“Where are the peas that we have to pick?”
Sally reached down and lifted a plant so the green pods hung down. “We pick all the pods that look kind of fat. Leave the real skinny ones. We get to pick them another day.”
Aunt Belle wore a pair of brown trousers and a large straw hat over her wavy brown hair. “It’s going to be a hot one today,” she said, “and maybe another thunderstorm.” She knelt down and began humming to herself as she worked quickly. She soon passed them with her bucket already half full. Aunt Belle had started on her second row when the girls finished their first. Their pails were full.
“You girls have been out here in the sun long enough. Your faces are red. Go up to the back porch where it’s cool and begin shelling,” Aunt Belle said. “There’s some orange Kool-Aid in the icebox.”
On the porch they found that Aunt Belle had left bowls for the shelled peas and a large basket for the empty pods. They sat on the porch floor with the bowls in their laps, their unshelled peas to one side and the empty basket between them. “Are these bowls big enough for all these peas?” Jeanne asked.
“That’s what I hate about peas. You start out with a lot, but you don’t get much.”
“Mama buys vegetables from a man with an old truck who comes around every Friday, but I’ve never shelled peas before.”
The basket of empty shells piled up quickly, but the bowls filled slowly.
“What will Aunt Belle do with all these peas?”
“We’ll have some for dinner this noon, but she’ll can the rest of them.”

Many people, like Jeanne, have neither grown nor picked their own vegetables. In the store they reject those that aren’t perfectly formed and without blemish. They have no idea what it costs in land, seed and fertilizer, labor and taxes to grow them. Now, with the developing “natural and organic” markets, some people are beginning to understand.

Growing up on a farm, my parents had a large garden where we grew all our own vegetables. Some appeared on the table fresh from picking, but the bigger portion went into jars, which were processed in a canner. Peas, green beans, carrots, beets, corn, Swiss chard and tomatoes all came to the table throughout the winter and until the next growing season began. In addition Dad grew a large patch of potatoes which were aLso stored in the cellar for the winter.

Why didn’t they freeze them? That technology only became viable financially for stores and families after World War II.
Helping Grandpa dig potatoes

Treatise on the Telephone

Ten-year-old Jeanne waits impatiently to hear the telephone ring five-shorts to talk with her Navy dad in 1943. Other rings sound: three-shorts-one-long and one-long-two-shorts. The only five-shorts ring is a neighbor with a church question for Aunt Belle. (This from my children’s novel about farm life during World War II.)

Most of you reading this never experienced a country party line in the 1930s and 40s. The telephone box hung on the wall and had a crank on its side. If I wanted to talk with my friend on the same line, I cranked three shorts and one long: zing-zing-zing-zzzinng. If I wanted to speak to someone not on our line, I picked up the receiver and cranked one long. An operator asked for the number I wanted and rang it for me. Should it be busy, she would tell me. For long distance, the operator took the name of the city and the number, and called back when she connected with it.

In cities, you only had to pick up the receiver of your black Western Electric telephone to get an operator. How modern and convenient! In the 1950s, Western Electric and ATT&T improved the system with dial phones. No more asking the operator for your number, you could dial it yourself.

Then came push button telephones—no more wearing your finger out dialing. Push button phones morphed into my favorite—ones that remember the number with a single button. The downside of these is that without the telephone in hand, I don’t know the number of the person I want. This is still true. If your cell phone dies, how do you call someone if you don’t remember the number?

Through the decades, communication by phone has gone from do-it-yourself party lines to calling anyone, any time, and expecting instant response.

What’s next? Constantly connected through our eyes? Brain?


Next week is May Day. What that means now and what it meant when I was ten are very, very different.

After World War II, the formation of Communist block, and the beginning of the Cold War between Western oriented countries and the United Soviet Socialist Republic, May Day brought news of stiff marches of the Soviet Army showing off guns, tanks, and planes. The traditional May Day festivities in the United States declined.

In European countries, May Day is a holiday. Dancing around the Maypole continues in many small communities. Young girls in traditional costume wind the Maypole with colorful ribbons as they circle it, weaving over and under one another’s arms.

You also know the call of “mayday” when someone needs help


In the afternoon, Mrs. Parsons announced we’d be making baskets as our art project. She distributed outdated wallpaper sample books and let us choose a couple of pages we would like for our baskets. Then with her help and instruction, we folded square pieces of these colorful sheets into baskets and pasted a handle on them.
After school I begged my mother to let me go over to the sap house to look for wild mayflowers and violets that grew in the damp earth. It was a long walk, but Mom let me go. I went through the dairy barn, down a farm road and across the bridge that spanned the creek that ran through our farmland. I squeezed myself between the strands of the barbed wire fence, walked and ran down the path which acted as a road through the length of the long flat field to the fence at the other end.
In front of me stood the sap house, a very old building with its roof caving in. Dad said that many years earlier the farmer had made maple syrup in it. The large brick furnaces still in place could boil sap from one thousand maple trees growing on the hill beside the building. Dad used it one year, but it was too far away. Instead he opted to use the pans, but build a fire closer to our house. I digress.
I searched until I found the tiny white and pink mayflowers, purple, white violets, and yellow dog-tooth violets or trout lilies. When I had enough for two or three small bouquets, I retraced my route to our house. While Mom went to help Dad in the barn, I arranged my bouquets in my baskets.
As it grew dusk, I slipped out of the house to hang a basket on the front door. Then I knocked loudly and ran away a short distance. Mom came to the door to find the basket. She chased and caught me to give me a kiss. Dad took me to a neighbor’s house so I could surprise
another mom with a basket and collect my kiss. Meanwhile, Mom had a knock at the door from
another school friend.

Do you know other May Day traditions?

To see pictures of wild mayflowers, click on the URL below: